The Morning Briefing: Tariffs, California, 'Blue Wave,' and Much, Much More

Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks about crime to local, state and federal law enforcement officials Friday, March 31, 2017, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Good Thursday Morning.

Tariffs, tariffs, tariffs.

President Trump is set to sign a tariff plan at 3:30 p.m., but the GOP is uniting against him. On Wednesday, 107 Republicans in the House of Representatives sent a letter to Trump urging him to reconsider. From The Hill‘s Vicki Needham:


“We are writing to express deep concern about the prospect of broad, global tariffs on aluminum and steel imports,” they wrote to the president in the letter first drafted earlier this week.

The lawmakers wrote that “any tariffs that are imposed should be designed to address specific distortions caused by unfair trade practices in a targeted way while minimizing negative consequences on American businesses and consumers.”

Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill have pushed for Trump to focus his trade ire on China and other nations that engage in unfair practices that hurt U.S. workers instead of slapping across-the-board tariffs on nations following the rules.

“We’re urging the president to tailor these tariffs so American businesses can continue to trade fairly with our partners, sell American-made products to customers all over the world and hire more workers here at home,” Brady said.

Otherwise, they argue that Trump’s suggested tariffs of 25 percent on imported steel and 10 percent on aluminum would do broad damage across the U.S. economy just as the tax-cut law is kicking in to boost growth.

“We urge you to reconsider the idea of broad tariffs to avoid unintended negative consequences to the U.S. economy and its workers,” the lawmakers wrote.

Politico reported on legislative ways Republicans in Congress could derail Trump’s plan.

Added Senate Majority [Whip] John Cornyn (R-Texas): “This is not a real estate transaction. While you could maybe walk away from a real estate transaction, we really can’t walk away from these trade agreements without jeopardizing the economy.”

So desperate are Republicans to stop the president that they’re even considering whether they could tie his hands legislatively — though that seems unlikely. There is very little recourse for Congress short of rewriting a 1962 law underpinning U.S. trade policy, which lawmakers are discussing but is no easy slam-dunk, according to a congressional aide working on the matter.

Republicans could also block a three-year renewal of the administration’s Trade Promotion Authority later this year, an extraordinary step given that Republicans voted three years ago to give then-President Barack Obama, a Democrat, such power. Taking it from Trump, the leader of their own party, would be risky and could sour the Hill GOP -White House relationship fast.

“The president’s got to come to us for approval on trade issues and we could do a resolution of disapproval,” Cornyn said of the idea. “I think that’s all a little bit premature until he makes his final decision.”


Even Vice President Mike Pence is advising Trump on the issue, acting as a go-between for the president and Congress. From Politico:

Pence, according to more than a half-dozen White House and Capitol Hill aides, has been quietly delivering messages to the president from Republicans on the Hill, who have publicly opposed the tariffs plan set to be announced as early as Thursday — though he’s made sure to maintain a studiously neutral position, to the frustration of some who had hoped he would do more to exert influence over Trump. …

As governor of Indiana, Pence was a tireless advocate for free trade. He urged the Indiana congressional delegation to support both Trade Promotion Authority and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which Trump campaigned against. In the letter, Pence argued that “reducing tariffs and other trade barriers so that Indiana businesses can enjoy increased market access and fairly compete on the world stage is something that Congress must do.”

Trump is set to sign the new tariffs today, but don’t expect the battle to be over with that.

“Going to war” in California.

The Trump Department of Justice has sued the State of California over its recently-passed “sanctuary state” policies subverting federal immigration law. Gov. Jerry Brown (D-Calif.) denounced the lawsuit as an “act of war” against the state. From the Los Angeles Times‘s Jazmine Ulloa and Liam Dillon:

A long-simmering battle between the Trump administration and California over immigration boiled over Wednesday, with Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions deriding the state’s “irrational, unfair and unconstitutional policies” and Gov. Jerry Brown accusing the federal government of launching “a reign of terror.”

“This is basically going to war against the state of California,” Brown declared.

As the Justice Department formally filed a legal challenge to state immigration laws, Sessions told a gathering of law enforcement officers in Sacramento that California was attempting to keep federal immigration officials from doing their jobs, and he charged Democrats with advancing the political agendas of “radical extremists.”


A “reign of terror” … oh, and white supremacy.

“Let’s face it, the Trump White House is under siege,” Brown said. “Obviously, the attorney general has found it hard just to be a normal attorney general. He’s been caught up in the whirlwind of Trumpism … [and is] initiating a reign of terror.”

State Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles), author of one of the laws targeted by the legal challenge, accused Sessions of having ideology based on “white supremacy and white nationalism.”

De León said he is directing former U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr., under contract to provide legal advice to the state Senate, to help formulate a response to submit in court. On a conference call with reporters, Holder said legal precedent makes clear that the federal government cannot insist that a state use its resources to enforce federal immigration law.

“From my perspective, the Trump administration’s lawsuit is really a political and unconstitutional attack on the state of California’s well-established rights under our system of government,” Holder said.

This legal battle will shake the nation. Ironically, the Obama administration may have already given the Trump administration victory on the issue. From National Review‘s David French:

So that’s federalism, right? While it’s clear that states can’t nullify federal laws, in the absence of conflicting federal statutes, can’t California enact immigration policies that advance its own, unique state interests?

It appears not. Ironically enough, thanks to a determined litigation effort by Obama’s Department of Justice, progressives handed the Trump administration a legal club that will likely beat down California’s attempt to go its own way: A Supreme Court precedent. And yesterday, the Trump DOJ picked up that club, suing California to block its new statutes.

You see, way back in 2012 the two parties had very different views of federalism. The GOP wanted to dissent from Obama’s immigration policies, and the Obama administration very much wanted to impose its own version of uniform, national rule. The state of Arizona, facing multiple challenges from a swelling illegal-immigrant population, enacted a statute that essentially created enhanced penalties for illegal immigration and granted state officials new powers to enforce existing federal law.

In other words, it was the mirror image of the California effort. Arizona’s statute didn’t conflict with federal law; it was just different from federal law, reflecting the state’s sovereign priorities. The Obama administration sued, taking the case all the way to the Supreme Court. On June 25, 2012, the Court struck down the key provisions of the Arizona law. Justice Kennedy wrote the opinion, and it was sweeping in its language and scope.

Essentially, Kennedy ruled that Congress — through its comprehensive statutory scheme — had “occupied the field” of alien registration and thus “even complementary state regulation is impermissible.” (Emphasis added.) This so-called “field preemption” reflects “a congressional decision to foreclose any state regulation in the area [preempted], even if it is parallel to federal standards.” After waxing eloquent about the importance of immigration in the American national story, Kennedy’s opinion goes on to conclude that “Arizona may have understandable frustrations with the problems caused by illegal immigration . . . but the State may not pursue policies that undermine federal law.”


A “blue wave” in Texas?

Democratic turnout was up in the Texas primary on Tuesday, but rumors of a “blue wave” are quite premature. From The Washington Times‘s Seth McLaughlin:

More than 1 million Democrats voted in the primary, or double the turnout from the last two Democratic Senate primaries in 2012 and 2014. It’s the first time they’ve surpassed the 1 million mark since 2002.

“What’s happening in Texas is part of a national trend,” said Tom Perez, chairman of the Democratic National Committee. “All across the country, Democrats are competing and winning in deep-red states.

Charlie Cook, of the Cook Political Report, a non-partisan election tracker, said there was a lot of evidence of a Democratic wave heading into Tuesday’s primary and, while it might not cost Mr. Cruz his seat, overall that still seems to be the case.

“It’s the Democratic tidal wave versus the Republican seawall,” Mr. Cook said. “At this point, my bet is that in House, the wave is bigger and stronger than the wall, but in the Senate, my money is on the wall not the wave.”

Both parties witnessed strong turnout, however. From NBC News’s Alex Seitz-Wald:

Thanks to Texas’ booming population, both parties saw a record number of voters head to the polls.

Democratic turnout was up 84 percent from the last midterm primary, in 2014, while Republican turnout increased about 14 percent, according to data from the secretary of state’s office. GOP turnout was the highest since the 2010 midterm.

Republicans still easily outnumbered Democrats at the polls on Tuesday and in early voting — 1.54 million to 1.04 million — underscoring just how difficult it will be for Democrats to take the country’s second-largest state, even in what is shaping up as a strong year for the party.


Even if Republicans hold on to Texas, they may lose some seats. This was indeed an auspicious sign for the Democrats as the 2018 mid-terms officially began.

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‘How Dare You’: Jeff Sessions Files Suit, Rips Oakland Mayor for Warning Illegal Aliens of ICE Raid


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